Sometimes, social media has worked in my favour.
I’ve used it for work and for making plans.
I’ve used it to sell a pair of side tables — and a cake.
But when it comes to genealogy, it’s been hit or miss.
After finding the obituary for Ellen’s former guardian in Montreal, I decided give social media another try, by taking my discovery to one of the parish genealogy groups I frequent on Facebook.
I’ve tried this before, with photos or queries about direct ancestors. People have generally responded positively, but rarely with “I know this person”, or “This person is my [insert relative here]”. But since it wasn’t a direct relation, maybe it would work this time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
On September 12th, I posted the obituary for Alberta Alexandrina Gilpin, along with a call-out to identify any of the names of Alberta’s nieces listed, if they were related.
One of the group’s members responded 90 minutes later.
That’s never happened to me.
While exchanging comments with him, a second member responded. Turns out Alberta was his great-great aunt. He’d been filling in his family tree, and I’d just helped give him more information.
(Side benefit of doing your own family research – helping unlock a door for someone else in the process!)
But back to the first member: he was from Brooklyn, but was out of town and was willing to help me out when he returned. He said he was visiting Toronto … where I live.
I told him this, and he suggested we talk by phone.
So the next evening, we had a phone conversation where I read him each of the nieces’ names … and he identified almost every single one of them.
He told me one of the nieces has a daughter who still lives in Montreal, who he promised to reach out to when he returned home …
And one of the other nieces in the obit is still alive, and living in Toronto.
Following our call, he called the living niece in Toronto. According to him, she apparently knew of Ellen, but couldn’t recall the full details. She had some information written down somewhere, but would look for it.
Hopefully my new acquaintance will follow up with her and find out if she’s been successful finding that information.
In the meantime, I’m trying really hard not to get excited, because the information could be related to someone else with the same first name*. It may not even be information about Ellen.
But deep in the pit of my stomach, the thought there might finally be a little more information about my great-aunt, has ignited a tiny ember of hope.
*When the group member initially responded to my message, he thought Ellen was related to his family, because he had a family member also named Ellen. I had to correct him and clarify what I thought my great-aunt’s connection might be to Alberta.